PhD Title: How does prolonged use of technology affect childhood musculoskeletal development and what are the future implications for the workplace?

University of Salford - The Centre for Health Sciences Research

Project Description

Academic Supervisors: Dr Anna Cooper-Ryan, Tamara Brown & Dr Steve Preece

This research will expand our knowledge of the ergonomic risk factors associated with musculoskeletal conditions (MSDs) in children. Specifically, the project will look at the increased use of technology, such as mobile touch screen devices, gaming controllers and laptops, in relation to the prevalence of MSDs. This will be achieved though a questionnaire-based study and a field-based study investigating the links between objectively measured risk factors and the prevalence of MSDs in children. The finding of the study will be interpreted in the context of possible ergonomic needs of the future workforce. This project will be conducted in collaboration with a leading ergonomic company, Cardinus Risk Management Ltd.


Ergonomic risk factors for adults using technology and the links of this usage to MSDs have been clearly identified. However, within the child population, there is a dearth of research in this area. It is widely accepted that children’s use of technology has increased. Moreover, there is evidence that there is a high-level of MSDs in children with consequences continuing into adulthood and the workforce. However, although musculoskeletal symptoms and physiological responses linked to usage of technology in childhood have been reported, the need for further high quality, cross-sectional or longitudinal studies in this area has been identified. It is this gap that this research will begin to address.

The project aims to:

  • Complete a national questionnaire study looking at population level data in relation to self-reported prevalence of technology usage, lifestyle factors, body discomfort and MSDs.
  • Validate portable outcome measurement techniques specific to this research.
  • Complete a cross-sectional study exploring associations between objective risk factors and MSDs.

Through the aims stated above, this will be the first study to investigate the incidence of MSDs in children in relation to technology use and also to explore the ergonomic risk factors associated with technology use in children, as well as exploring whether there is a relationship between the two. Moreover, the findings from this study will have a real-world implication as the findings from this work will be considered in terms of the future workforce and ergonomics sector.

Health Sciences Research at the University of Salford

The Centre for Health Sciences Research at the University of Salford comprises a multidisciplinary team of staff and students drawn from the health professions and related disciplines. The research centre has world class research facilities. The School boasts over £10 million pounds of research funding and has extensive national and international links, with both academic and clinical partners. There is a vibrant community of students studying either at Ph.D. level or Master’s by research.


  • 1st class/2.1 degree in relevant subject e.g. ergonomics / human factors, physiotherapy, or biomechanics.
  • Candidates with other closely-related first degrees should contact the supervisor to discuss possibilities.

For full details of student requirements and specification please visit:

Funding Eligibility:

This studentship is only available to students with settled status in the UK, as classified by EPSRC eligibility.  Please visit:

Enquiries: Informal enquiries may be made to Anna Cooper-Ryan by email:

Curriculum vitae and supporting statement explaining their interest should be sent to

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Northern England